Even as U.S. policy makers continue to debate the relative advantages and drawbacks of globalization, it’s abundantly clear that international trade is not the benevolent force it was once thought.
For all its promise of boosting incomes and strengthening growth, trade has had a disproportionately damaging impact on regions of the U.S. that have long depended on manufacturing. Recent data shows that these communities have suffered a great deal of economic distress, including high rates of underemployment and joblessness.
These communities have also become much more indebted compared with the rest of the nation, according to my latest research. During the years 2000 to 2007 — also known as the run-up to the Great Recession — overall American household debt doubled. That debt peaked in 2008, at almost $13 trillion. This leverage, however, was not shared equitably. Household debt in regions of the country where manufacturing jobs had shifted overseas grew an additional 20-30% over that period. In other words, nearly a third of American household debt during that time frame can be attributed to import competition with China and other low-wage countries.